Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's Resolutions

It's that time of year, New Year's resolutions and self-improvement.  So I took a stab at the traditional resolutions. 

- Be a better husband, brother, father, son, etc.
- Lose weight
- Eat better
- Learn a new language

Those are boring.  Here are my new resolutions based on things that matter:


1. Sell a couple of bikes.  Thin the herd.  Probably selling one road bike, one recumbent, and one tandem.  I thnk the tandem scares the bejesus out of my wife.
2. Train for and finish a triathlon.  I don't know why, but I haven't done one before.
3. Build a single speed.  Find an old frame and re-configure some old wheels to take a single speed freewheel and use some of the parts I have laying around.
4. Ride another tour.  Probably go to Wisconsin again.
5. Rent a bike in Austin, Texas and ride the Capital of Texas Highway from Research Blvd. to Bee Cave Road and back.  I lived in Austin for four years and never went and did this.  I'll get my friend Mike to ride with me and watch him gasp for air and then go to Taco Cabana for soft tacos and Shiner Bocks.


1. Make a pilgrimage to Owensboro, Kentucky and eat mutton barbecue.
2. Make barbecue from an obscure type of meat.  More obscure than mutton.  Send suggestions.
3. Go to Arthur Bryant's in downtown Kansas City.  They put your meat, fries, bread, and anything else on butcher paper and roll it up to go.
4. Go to Rudy's in Austin, Texas.  Order brisket and sausage.  Accompany with white bread, Shiner Bock and banana pudding.
5. Find a source for whole pork shoulders, including the picnic.  Cook referenced shoulder.


1. Try a new beer style.  Maybe something from Ethiopia.
2. Evangelize the virtues of nitrogen beers, especially Boddingtons, with a nod to Murphy's, Caffrey's, and Guiness.
3. Host a blind beer tasting.
4. Visit the Shlafly Tap Room in downtown St. Louis.
5. Tour a brewery I haven't visited before.

I think these are noble resolutions.  I will keep everyone apprised of my progress during the year.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Santa Brought New Wheels!

Actually, Santa just brought some parts.  As noted in some of the earlier posts, Shimano 105 hubs and Velocity Synergy rims.  And some spokes, rim tap, and a new set of cassette cogs.

I also acquired a new tool:   a Park Spoke Tension Meter.  One of the keys to having a true wheel that will stay true is having even and sufficient spoke tension. Most broken spokes result from duty cycling at the spoke head.  When the wheel goes round, the tension goes up and down.  This is like bending a paper clip back and forth until it finally breaks.  By keeping the spoke tensions high, this duty cycling is greatly reduced.  It also makes the wheel a lot more solid.  In general, the spoke tension is set by the rim manufacturer's recommendation.  In this case, I contacted Velocity and was provided a recommendation of 110 kgf for the front and 120 kgf for the rear.

I did make one small change to the wheels from my orginal plans.  On the rear wheel, I went with double-butted 14/15/14 spokes instead of the straight gauge 14.  Many reputable wheelbuilders swear by this.  They claim that the thinner 15 gauge middle section will flex a bit more on hard impacts and lessen the maximum stress experienced by the spoke head.  It cost another $10 for the spoke upgrade, but I decided I would give it a try.

The wheels make the bike look a bit different.  The 32 front/36 rear spokes certainly give the bike a more classic (or retro-grouch) look than the 20 spoke bladed Mavic wheels.

Here in southwestern Illinois, temperatures are predicted to get back into the 50's later in the week, so I'm itching to try the new wheels out.

If you're interested in building your own wheels, let me know and I can help get you started.  It not as hard as it might seem.

Monday, December 20, 2010

New BBQ Type?

I wonder what would happen if you took Rudolph, rubbed him with kosher salt, pepper, brown sugar, and chili power, and then put him in a smoker for 16 hours at 225 degrees?  And maybe make a mop sauce using Sam Adams Old Fezziwig Ale?

Merry Christmas

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Times They Are a Chainin' (Part 3)

Why do you need to lube your chain?

1. It squeaks and makes noise if you don't.
2. It wears out faster due to metal to metal contact.
3. Prevents corrosion.
4. Prevents intrusion of grit and other abrasive agents.

What other attributes would you like from your chain lube:

a. Doesn't pick up dirt.
b. Prevents moisture intrusion.
c. Prevents grit intrusion.
d. Easy to apply.
e. Lasts a while.

Let's see how some different chain lubes hold up against these criteria.

WD-40 - First of all, this is not a lubricant.  It is a solvent.  It mostly evaporates after application.
90 Weight Oil - Great lubricant, messy.
Melted Parafin - At one time this was sold in a tin with extra lubricating agents mixed in.  You could set it on the grill and melt it, then dip your chain in, then hang the chain up to dry.
Light oil (e.g. 3-in-1) - Cheap, easy to find and apply.  Need to apply before every ride.
Teflon spray or dry lube - Great at washing out foreign matter when sprayed on. Lube coat is very thin considering the duty cycle.

Chain lube with wax - This is good stuff. There are many types and some also contain Teflon and lubricants.   
In summary, lube your chain once in a while with a decent lubricant and things will last longer and perform better.

Here's my evaluation chart:

90 Weight Oil
Light Oil
Teflon Spray
Chain lube w/wax
Prevents squeaks and noises
Lubricates metal to metal contact
Prevents corrosion
Prevents intrusion of abrasive agents
Doesn't pick up dirt
Prevents moisture intrusion
Prevents grit intrusion
Easy to apply
Lasts a while

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Fun in the Mud

For some reason, last Saturday I participated in the Metro Tri Club trail run at Pere Marquette State Park, about 20 miles north of Alton, Illinois, along the Mississippi River.  This was a 7.5 mile race through the trails in the park.  Under the best conditions, it is a hard race, run up and down the bluffs along the river.  Take a look at these videos and see what happens when you combine this with a lot of rain.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Times, They are a Chainin' (Part 2)

How do you replace the chain?  You need a chain break tool.  Many of the multi-tools that are carried on the bike have one, but they also make single-purpose models.  The chain is assembled with a pin press fit into the plates.  The pin is set between four plates (two inner and two outer).  There is also a spacer between the inner plates.  To take the old chain off, you use the tool to push the pin out through 3 of the 4 plates.  Note that some chains have a "power link", that allows chain removal without the use of a tool.  This link is sometimes a different color (gold or silver) for easy identification.  To remove the "power link", the links on either side must be pushed together until the links unsnap.  I usually just find it easier to push the pin out.

Take the old chain off and stretch it out on the workbench.  Take the new chain out and stretch it out alongside.  You'll probably find the new chain is longer.  You'll need to remove a few links to make the new chain the same length.  Always remove an even number of links unless you have a power link (then remove an odd number).  Trust me on this one.

Put the new chain on and you're ready to go.  If you are not familiar with how a rear derailleur works, you might want to take a picture of it prior to removing the chain as the new chain must thread back through the derailleur the same way.  Use either the chain break tool to push the pin back in or use the "quick-link" that came with your new chain.  You may find the chain easier to put on if you shift both the front and rear derailleurs to the smallest cogs or chainrings.  This will give you extra slack to connect the ends.

In the next part of this series, I'll discuss the most controversial topic in the universe, more contentious than politics and religion combined:  CHAIN LUBE!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Chocolate Bock

I was at the local grocery the other day and they had a 12-pack sampler of the Sam Adams Winter Collection on sale.  I had tried a few of the selections before.  I have always found the Winter Lager to be one of my all-time favorite beers.  Also included in the collection was Old Fezziwig Ale (named after a Dickens character in A Christmas Carol), Winter Ale, and Holiday Porter.

Chocolate and beer may seem to be an odd combination, but this combination does have historical roots.  The Aztecs brewed a type of beer from the cacao plant.  One of the byproducts of this fermentation was cocoa, which we now make into chocolate.

The Chocolate Bock tastes seems to have a dark porter base.  Dark roasted grains play heavily in the flavor.  There is a deep, dark chocolate flavor as well.  There is no noticeable hops flavor, and, given the bitterness of the chocolate, very little should be needed to balance the sweetness of the malt.

I pull this beer out of the fridge and poured it into a glass.  I found the flavor to improve after the beer had a chance to warm up.  I'm guessing the ideal temperature for this brew to be 45-50 degrees.

I wouldn't necessarily look to pair this beer with any particular food, including dessert.  However, I would be inclined to serve this as a dessert with a sampling of dark chocolate, particularly those with a high (65-70%) cocoa content.


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Times, They are a Chainin' (Part 1)

Now is the time to start getting your bike ready for next spring.  Most of the parts on your bike are maintenance free these days.  Cable housings have teflon lining, hub and bottom bracket bearings are sealed, and pedals don't need much attention.

However, the chain is the one part that is constantly exposed to the elements and has lots of moving parts.  A typical chain will have around 114 links, all of which have two sliding plates.  The chain has no bearings to reduce rolling friction, so these links are exposed to constant metal-to-metal wear.  Throw in some road grit and your chain will wear out.

How do you know if your chain is worn out?  There are some fancy tools you can use, but it can be done very easily with a ruler.  All bicycle chains have 24 links per foot, sometimes described as 1/2" pitch.  Take a ruler and measure the distance between the center of the pins for 24 links.  A new chain will be exactly 12 inches (24 x 1/2 = 12, right?).  A chain is in good shape until this distance becomes 12-1/16 inches.  Now is the time to order the new chain.  At 12-1/8", replace the chain.  Now.

If you continue to ride with a worn-out chain, the first casualty will be the cassette or freewheel cogs.  The stretched-out chain will not mesh exactly with the teeth and c

What kind of chain should you get?  Match the chain to your rear cassette.  If you have an eight-speed cassette, buy an eight-speed chain.  A nine-speed chain will generally work with an eight-speed cassette, but not the other way around.

Beware of the "fancy" chain, with exotic construction or materials.  These chains are high-priced with very little savings in weight and no increase in performance.  The SRAM PC-951 chain costs about $22 and weighs 300 grams.  The PC-991 hollow pin chain costs $62 and weighs 279 grams.  This is about 3/4 ounce or $853/pound.  If you're this concerned about weight savings, get a haircut, go without socks or gloves, get rid of the handlebar tape, don't take water, or any other number of weight savings ideas.

Up next: Replacing the Chain

Friday, December 3, 2010

McRib Confessions

I will emphasize that a McRib is not barbecue.  I eat one once a year, although some years I forget.  Today I ate two.

Before I get any detractors, examine your own habits.  Several of you rock n roll enthusiasts probably sing along with James Taylor or Air Supply when no one is looking.  Some of you may even have had dermabrasion.  

My name is Wade and I ate two McRibs today.  And I will probably eat another one next year.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Roe v. Wade? How about Run v. Bike?

Roe vs. Wade?  Well, since I have no current disputes with anyone named Roe and the
other Roe v. Wade is way too controversial for this site, let's skip this one and move
on to Run vs. Bike.

Which of these acitivities provide the best fitness level? Fewest injuries? Weight loss?
 Best effectiveness for time spent?

Not that I am an expert in these matters, but I am leaning towards a mixture of running
and biking as the most efficient method of fitness. 

For the last several years, I have found that while bicycling alone kept me in shape, it
did not really tax my cardiovascular system to the extent that would make significant
levels of improvement.  In other words, I hit the plateau pretty quickly.  I became so
efficient that one year during RAGBRAI*, I rode 500 miles in a week and gained four
pounds.  Other people get a little more crazy on the bike.  See the movie "Bicycle

I have always found that running increased my fitness level the fastest.  However, hard
running is hard on the body.  Even at my not-so-advanced age, I prefer not to run two
days in a row.  If I run three days in a row, I'm pretty stiff.  Running has its share
of crazy people too.  See the movie "Running on the Sun" or the book "Born to Run".

For the last few months, I've been trying a regimen that mixed running and biking.  I've
tried to get a workout five days a week.  My fitness level has increased and my weight
has slowly been dropping.  It seems that running has provided an increased level of
difficulty in the workouts while cycling has given my feet and legs a break.

Let me know what you think, cycling, running, or both?

*RAGBRAI - Register's Annual Bike Ride Across Iowa

Friday, November 26, 2010

Turkey in the Brine

Yesterday's bird was a success, even if it wasn't cooked on the Weber.  For the record, this is probably the first time in about 10 years that I've cooked a turkey in the oven instead of the Weber kettle charcoal grill.

What's my cooking method?

1. Brine the bird.  See Alton Brown and Good Eats to learn more.
2. Put the bird in a hot oven.  Start the bird out at 500 degrees for 30 minutes.
3. Foil the bird and turn down the oven.  300 degrees is good.
4. Cook until the bird gets to 165 degrees.  Then take it out.  It will go up a few more.
5. Let sit for 30 minutes before carving.  It keeps the juice in.
6. Enjoy with a beer.  Yesterday I had the turkey with Sam Adams Winter Ale.

If you choose to go the Weber route, use indirect cooking and a really hot fire to start.  This will crisp the skin.  As the fire burns down, add a few coals every so often to keep the fire going.  The bird will slowly cook through.  Use a digital meat thermometer and it will be tasty.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Need Some New Wheels

Bicycle wheels are somewhat like wives.  The flashier and more exotic you pick, the more likely you are to have trouble.
Last winter, I picked up a flashy, exotic rear wheel at a good price.  This was a Mavic Cosmic Elite, a relatively heavy and solid wheel, deep V section, primarily sold as a triathlon wheel.  I was assured that this was Mavic’s strongest wheel.  I had kept the wheel in perfect true and spoke tension was perfect, but I broke a spoke anyway.  For reference, this wheel is built with 20 bladed straight-pull spokes.  I had a Mavic Aksium front wheel that more or less matched, but I had no problems with this wheel.  The bottom line is that 20 spokes are just too few for everyday riding for anyone.
Those of you who know me know that I am not a small person.  I’m not oversized either, but even at my ideal weight, I’ve got over 200 pounds on the bike wheels, not including the weight of the bike.  So I need a strong wheel.
What makes a strong bicycle wheel?  Simply enough, a lot of spokes. 
A bicycle wheel is held together by a number of spokes, all with a significant amount of pre-tensioning.  Most wheels have spokes with a pre-tension of somewhere around 200 pounds.  If the spokes are not tensioned, they will be tensioned and de-tensioned with every revolution of the wheel. This will result in a very premature failure of the spoke.  The more spokes on a wheel, the less stress with every wheel revolution.
The other problem with wheels is the manufacturers’ continued escalation in “improvements”.  We started with a 5-speed freewheel and have continued to escalate to an 11-speed.  In doing so, we have sacrificed the strength of the rear wheel.  Why?  To get the extra cogs, the right side flange had to be moved closer to the center of the rear hub, decreasing the bracing angle.
Let’s look at a few pre-built wheels.  I had a pair of Neuvation wheels at one time.  Great wheels, probably the best rolling hubs I have owned.  But there just weren’t enough spokes.  Most of the pre-built wheels fall into this category:  high-performance, lightweight, made for 130 lb riders on smooth roads.  Performance Bike has their Forte Titan wheels.  Same problem, 16-spoke front, 20-spoke rear.  About half of what I need.
So I am getting ready to build a new wheelset to my specifications.  Very strong, reasonably economical, reasonably fast.  I have decided to start with Shimano 105 hubs, somewhat of a benchmark for hub construction.  I had toyed with the idea of Phil Wood hubs.  These are arguably the most bullet-proof hub ever, but they cost a bit more than the Shimano.  They’ll last longer, but probably not five times longer.  The Phil Woods do cost five times more.
For the rims, I have chosen the Velocity Synergy.  This is a 19 mm tall, 23 mm wide box-section rim.  These are a bit more forgiving than the deep-V section aero rims.  I had considered the Mavic Open Sport, a similar rim.  However, the Velocity is a welded rim instead of pinned.  In addition, the Synergy also has an off-center version available.  Why is that important?  Used on the rear wheel, the off-center design can even out the spoke tension in the rear wheel.  The rear wheel right side spokes are typically tensioned at twice that of the left side spokes.  By re-shaping the rim and offsetting the spoke holes 4.0 mm to the left, this changes the ratio from 2:1 to roughly 4:3.  The wheel is more evenly tensioned and spoke breakage is greatly reduced.
I have decided to forgo any exotic spokes and go with a straight 14-gauge spokes.  The wheels will both be laced 3-cross.  No more radial lacing for me.  There’s a variety of anecdotes regarding the stiffness of radial laced wheels versus 3-cross.  Personally, I think the 3-cross give a smoother ride.  However, I will qualify this by stating that all of the wheels that I have ridden with radial lacing have had deep aero-section rims which are much stiffer vertically than their low-profile box section counterparts.
I’ll post building progress of these wheels later.  The plans are to build these while I’m on vacation between Christmas and New Years.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Pumpkin Beer?

I was at the grocery store and my wife spotted the Harvest Moon Pumpkin Ale.  This is made by Blue Moon, which is really just part of Molson Coors.

I was pretty darn skeptical about pumpkin ale, but remembering my beer history, I decided to give this a try.  Some of you may know that pumpkin was a regular ingredient in the beers of colonial America.  Pumpkins were easier to grow than grains, so a lot of beer was made using pumpkin as a base.

I had expected this to taste something like a cross between a winter ale and pumpkin pie.  I was concerned that the pumpkin would overwhelm the taste of the ale.  I was wrong.

I couldn't even taste the pumpkin.  It just tasted like ale.  Maybe some of you have a more refined sense of taste than I do, but it didn't seem like there was any pumpkin at all.  It tasted like an average ale.

Now I'm not going to go so far as throwing out the rest of the six-pack, but I probably won't buy this one again.